This Gay Model Couple Refused to Be Closeted, Succeeded Anyway

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Photo: jarlos420/Instagram.com

Jarlos is the sobriquet of downtown’s gay "It" couple, boyfriends John Tuite, 22, and Carlos Santolalla, 25. They both have the good bone structure necessary for modeling. Though one might assume that there would be a broad swath of openly gay models, the scene is more bro-y than you’d expect, and agencies often invoke a don’t-ask-don’t-tell-policy on sexual orientation. John and Carlos were not interested in this kind of pretending, which led them to ditch their respective agencies and go freelance. It hasn’t hurt their modeling careers so far. You might recognize them from the fall DKNY ads (John was the one with blue hair).

Photo: DKNY

But modeling is just one of Jarlos’s activities. They are DJs/party photographers/art curators/event producers, etc., etc. In a city of multi-hyphenates, they excel at their myriad endeavors. They’re also Instagram phenoms — @JArlos420 has over 18,000 followers — with a specialty in documenting themselves making out. A lot.

“I hire them as often as I can,” says Lyz Olko, director of nightlife for the Jane Hotel and Westway. “They bring in tons of people and are rad.”

The Cut sat down with them earlier this week, in their quite disheveled East Village apartment, while the duo packed for Miami Art Basel (they are DJing three parties, covering the fair for Vice, taking over Out magazine’s Instagram account, and producing and curating a video art show Saturday). In person, they were as cute as you would think from following them on Instagram. They finished each other’s sentences, but they didn’t make out at all, which was a drag.

How did you guys meet?
Carlos Santolalla: We met at a casting three years ago. We were both signed to modeling agencies and started talking to each other. Then we started running into each other and hitting each other up via social media.
John Tuite: Carlos followed me on Twitter.
C.S.: And we started hitting each other up on the internet.
J.T.: When we met we had tons of ideas but no direction. Being together brought us into the same direction. We used to sneak into parties we weren’t invited to at all and try to take pictures of famous people. Now we’re invited and covering it and DJing.
C.S.: When we started getting paid, it became more real.

People would think that there would be a lot more gay male models than there are.
C.S.: I know. That’s a thing that we’re exploring all of the time.
J.T.: We were discouraged from identifying as being gay. They’d rather you be ambiguous about it.
C.S.: Every agent will tell you you have to play straight.
J.T.: It’s so fucked up. After coming out, I didn’t want to be weird about it again and act straight at castings. I met with this one agency and they said, "We’d like to sign you, but you have to delete your Instagram account with your boyfriend and you guys can’t go out to parties together anymore." What the fuck? That was last year.

Are you with an agency now?
C.S.: We both dropped our agencies because of that. I was with Red and he was with Adam. It’s just uncomfortable and we didn’t want to deal with it.
J.T.: We were getting more jobs through our Instagram. Honestly, my agency sucked and never got me work anyway.
C.S.: We got that DKNY campaign because of our Instagram and all of these magazine shoots.
J.T.: We might sign with an agency. We’re talking to one.
C.S.: For a while, all the gay male models were coming up to us for advice and stuff. There’s not a ton, but there’s more now because of Marc Sebastian [Faiella].

And the long-hair guy who’s going out with gay Spock [Zachary Quinto].
C.S.: Miles McMillan.
J.T.: And what about the guy who dated Frank Ocean? Or is that “allegedly"? I sound like Wendy Williams. Whatever. He’s pretty gay.

You have so many followers on Instagram, but you don’t post much.
C.S.: We can’t show us making out every day. We don’t take it seriously. But it got big because we took a picture with Harry Styles from One Direction at a party and tagged it. All of these fans thought we were best friends or dating him and it was on the news, “Model gay couple hooking up with Harry Styles!”
J.T.: It was totally not true.
C.S.: We did eat his ice cream and stuff and he’s good friends with a lot of our friends, but we didn’t hook up.

Weird. It’s like that Japanese gay male porn that is targeted toward teen girls.
J.T.: Yaoi! A lot of people into yaoi follow us, too. It's weird.

Did you both come to New York wanting to be models?
C.S.: I lived in San Francisco and was broke. I was like, "I’m either going to be broke in San Francisco or broke in New York," so I figured being broke in New York was better. But everything fell into place. I didn’t expect it to happen. I was working at the Standard, and some agent was like, Come to my office, and I had no idea what for. It’s not what I came for but I was hoping something would happen, not modeling to be exact. But I moved here wanting something to happen.

Photo: ACNE

John, you go to Columbia, what are you studying?
J.T.: I’m majoring in American studies. I’m a junior. I was going to school in St. Louis and then I visited New York for two weeks and I stayed instead of going back. I worked for a year as a cashier at Abercrombie & Fitch on Fifth Avenue.

What music do you play when you DJ?
C.S.: We play new rap — like the worst, like it came out a minute ago — Vine rap I guess — and house music and pop.
J.T.: We DJ’d the Nylon party. I think we were the first to play Bobby Shmurda during Fashion Week. 

Do people confuse you and call you by each other's name?
C.S.: All the time and I completely don’t get it.

After three years together has the amount of making out you do diminished?
C.S.: No. We make out too much, maybe.

Carlos, in 2012 you were in a Tori Amos video for a horrible song.
C.S.: We’ve done a ton of music videos together. Xiu Xiu, Smith Western, and Annie.
J.T.: Richard Kern did that.
C.S.: The last music video we shot, for Haerts, there was a pair of guys making out and they were weird and dressed in suits and we were trying to talk to them and be polite and asked them how long they’d been dating and one was like, I’m straight and I’m an actor and I’m here to make out with my friend to be in this video and we’ve been here since 10 a.m.

It’s like you’re soft-core porn stars.
C.S.: Exactly. Being paid to make out is fun. 

Why do people like to watch you make out so much?
C.S.: We’re nonthreatening gays. People think that we’re relatable.
J.T.: We’re of the Tumblr generation, for sure.

You’ve both shot a lot with Ryan McGinley.
C.S.: I did when I first moved here and he shot us for Purple.
J.T.: And I was in his Acne underwear campaign.
C.S.: John has a commercial coming out!
J.T.: I’m an extra in what is actually the best commercial ever.
C.S.: It’s Estée Lauder with Kendall Jenner.  
J.T.: It’s set at a party and I’m milling around in the background. I got a random email from a casting agency saying, Do you want to make $1,000 and be in the background of a commercial? It should be out soon. She was cool.

Do you find modeling fulfilling creatively?
C.S.: No. It’s not fulfilling at all. It’s the worst thing in entire world. It's so stupid; anyone who’s into it is [not smart]. If you’re some 17-year-old Russian girl who has no money I’m sure it’s amazing.
J.T.: It can be rewarding if you’re working with a friend. I’d much rather be making something.